Monroe County may go ahead with its own noise study of the F/A-18 Super Hornet in light of the Navy's refusal to review the matter, but discussions as to the scope and cost of such a survey will have to be hammered out first.
Though it appears a baseline study of the noise generated by the Super Hornet is in the works, the county board will still have to discuss the larger issue of how to go about it, said Commissioner Danny Kolhage, who also sits on the Monroe County Naval Air Station EIS Oversight Committee.
This month, the Navy announced it would be going ahead with plans to bring newer aircraft -- primarily the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter -- without first addressing noise concerns outlined by Monroe County officials
The county contends the current F/A-18 Super Hornet was never properly evaluated in terms of noise studies, but the Navy has long held that it did study Super Hornet noise, and that its research met legal guidelines of the National Environmental Policy Act.
The county would have to decide at its Nov. 20 meeting in Key Largo if it wants Fort Lauderdale-based consulting firm Keith and Schnars to spearhead the study. If it does, the county would have to amend its contract with the firm, Kolhage said.
In short, the county may want to do an actual noise study where researchers would literally place microphones or other noise sensing equipment at strategic points in or near Naval Air Station Key West and collect raw, empirical data regarding the Super Hornet.
The Navy used computer models to study the noise, which it holds is the only acceptable methodology available, but some in the county disagree.
The county's own noise study probably won't change the Navy's mind on the issue, but it could be important data for the county to have down the road, Keith and Schnars Vice President Michael Davis told the EIS Committee this summer.
Key Largo resident and former Navy sailor and EIS Committee member John Hammerstrom agrees.
"It's in the county's best interest," Hammerstrom said. "We've had long-standing issues with the Navy's methodology. They claim they were using the only technology that has been approved (by Navy brass) but we want to go collect actual measurements of noise, and not use hypothetical computer models."
The other part of such a study would include paying someone to calculate or evaluate what the new data means, Kolhage said.
The cost of the study itself would be between $20,000 to $25,000, Davis told the EIS Committee in August. How much it would cost taxpayers to have that study evaluated remains to be seen.
"That will take some discussion," Kolhage said.
The county commission is scheduled to meet on Nov. 20 at the Murray Nelson Government Center,
10200 Overseas Highway, Key Largo.